Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


from The Way to Jade Mountain

Daniel Tobin
| poetry


After Li Bai, For Shujen Wang


5. A Song


When she glides around the garden
her light dress lifts like a cloud

and her face, because the mind
makes it so, appears to be a rose.

And when she stands on her terrace
lucent with spring dew, it’s either

the jeweled crest of a jade mountain,
or the moon-drenched palace of the gods.


7. Neither Here, Nor There


I’ve been staring so long at my face
in my wine—suddenly it’s dusk.

A blizzard of dogwood blossoms
has fallen, making my clothes a dune.

I’m so drunk I walk out into
the stream, the moon there, the sky.

The birds, I think, must be far away,
like everybody else. Except me.


9.   At Heaven’s Gate


It is as if this river, surging,
has shattered the mountain in two.

Its waters churn the color of jade,
fomenting east, swirling back west.

Ahead, two blue summits face
each other, parted, lifting up.

I aim for the heart, my sail’s blade
slicing in half the sun’s wide wheel.


10.    Question and Reply


What is the reason, you ask, for staying
alone with myself on the Jade Mountain?

I smile at you, but will give no answer—
my heart is a still lake reflecting sky.

Do you see how the flowing river carries
the peach blossom, unknowingly,

to some farther shore?  Here, now, apart,
heaven touches earth in the human world.

Daniel Tobin is the author of six books of poems, most recently Belated Heavens (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry) and The Net. He is the recipient of creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

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